Largest-ever study underlines risk of pre-term births

May 21st, 2008 - 3:06 pm ICT by admin  

New York, May 21 (IANS) An analysis of close to seven million births has concluded that pre-term babies are more than twice as likely to have major birth defects as full-term infants. The exhaustive study - which looked at live births between 1995 and 2000 in 13 US states, representing about 30 percent of all births in the country - found that about eight percent of babies born pre-term had a birth defect.

Pre-term birth is a live birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation. In the US, over half a million babies are born too soon each year, and the rate is rising. Birth defects and pre-term birth are the leading causes of infant death in the country.

The study, by researchers from several top US institutions, has been published online in the Maternal and Child Health Journal.

“Infants born pre-term were more than twice as likely to have major birth defects as infants born at term, and the association was strongest among very pre-term babies,” said Joann Petrini, co-author of the study.

“This study highlights the importance of understanding the possible shared causes and risk factors that lead to pre-term birth among those infants affected by major birth defects.”

Very pre-term babies, those born between 24 and 31 weeks gestation, were five times as likely as full-term infants to have a birth defect.

The most common birth defects for this group were central nervous system defects and cardiovascular defects, such as a hole in the heart, the study found.

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